Wednesday, August 10, 2016

With Trump, everyone gets their own scandal

Talking Points can explore the Russian connection (and other many stories).

Politico can dig into the mafia associations.

The Washington Post can uncover a history of fraudulent charities.

USA Today can recount the hardships of tradesmen who assumed Trump was good for his debts.

The NYT can find all the material it can handle in Trump University.

Now Vanity Fair takes a deep drive into Trump's finances.

From Nicholas Shaxson:

But Malone also touched on another topic, which opens up a new and very different set of questions. Although she wouldn’t discuss any financial details for the course, she didn’t dispute my observation that its accounts for 2014 showed a loss-making operation. The observation was almost “asinine,” she says, because projects routinely make losses in the early years. This was a “legacy project” for Donald, she says. “This is about the love of the game of golf, the love of the land, and memory of his mother,” who was born and grew up in Scotland. The official accounts filed at Companies House (the British version of the S.E.C.) show, in fact, that for the calendar year 2014, the operating company Trump International Golf Club Scotland Limited showed a net loss of £1.1 million ($1.8 million) on revenues of £2.8 million ($4.4 million).

But Trump’s disclosure in July 2015 to the U.S. Federal Election Commission (F.E.C.), under the “income” heading, showed a profit of precisely $4,349,641. We aren’t quite comparing apples with apples here, because the F.E.C. disclosures cover the calendar year 2014 plus preceding months in the current year. This scenario would make sense only if the loss-making operation in 2014 suddenly surged into profit in early 2015, when the course was closed for winter until April 1, then returned (as Malone suggests) to its loss-making ways more recently. Or it could just be an error: mistakes are only human.

But let’s look further. For the Trump Turnberry golf resort, on the Scottish west coast, his F.E.C. disclosures record a profit of $20,395,000—but the accounts for 2014 show a loss of £3.6 million ($5.6 million) on revenues of £9.2 million ($14.6 million). It’s the same story again at his Doonbeg course in Ireland, where he told the F.E.C. his profit was $10,755,683—again, very precise—while Irish company accounts show a loss of 2.5 million euros ($3.3 million) on revenues of 4.2 million euros ($4.7 million).

This looks like a pattern: in each case a loss for 2014 in the company filings morphs into a large profit (for 2014 plus a few extra months) in his F.E.C. filings. This would be compatible with other analyses suggesting Trump is prone to hyping his wealth and income. Shawn Tully at Fortune magazine, using rough but reasonable calculations, estimated in March that Trump had been putting in gross revenues in his disclosures, where he should have been putting income, after stripping out costs, and that his true income was probably between a third and a half of the £362 million ($514 million) he claimed in his July 2015 disclosure.

When I pressed Trump on the discrepancy between the Scottish and Irish filings and what he had reported, he said that the disclosure was “a revenue number: it is not a profit and loss number.” His C.F.O., Allen Weisselberg, who was also on the phone line, echoed that this was a “revenue” number. Yet, in February, Trump told Bloomberg News that these same Scottish and Irish numbers on his disclosures represented “projected future income”—a different thing again, which is certainly not what the F.E.C. asked for.

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